A survey of 1000 parents has suggested that those who request flexible working to enable them to look after their children are punished for doing so by being given fewer hours, worse shifts and in some cases have lost their jobs.
The survey focused on mums and dads in “low paid” jobs particularly in the retail, hospitality and social care sectors and identified that part of the problem is that many employees are unaware of their rights to flexible working.
Every employee who has been employed for 26 weeks has the statutory right to apply for flexible working – as long as their request is in writing and they only make one request during every 12 month period.
The process regarding requests for flexible working is governed by the Employment Rights Act 1996 and any applications must be discussed with the employee and dealt with in a reasonable manner. ACAS have published a very useful guide regarding flexible working applications and how to respond to such applications in a reasonable manner: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/f/e/Code-of-Practice-on-handling-in-a-reasonable-manner-requests-to-work-flexibly.pdf
The employer must consider the application within three months of receipt. The legislation recognises that an employer may have legitimate business reasons why it cannot accommodate a flexible working request. There are eight grounds for rejecting a request, and only these grounds may be relied on as a reason for rejection:
- The burden of additional costs.
- Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.
- Inability to reorganise work among existing staff.
- Inability to recruit additional staff.
- Detrimental impact on quality.
- Detrimental impact on performance.
- Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work.
- Planned structural changes.
The legislation does not expressly give an employee the right appeal against the rejection of their flexible working request. However, the Acas Code suggests that such a right should be given to demonstrate reasonable conduct.
Some job roles may not readily accommodate flexible working. In these circumstances, a trial period may be considered. The legislation does not provide for or regulate trial periods, although there appears to be nothing stopping the parties agreeing to one. This could be to both parties' advantage as rather than rejecting the request, where it is unsure whether the arrangements requested are sustainable in the business or uncertain about the possible impact, having a trial period may help to properly assess the request and whether it is feasible. Further, this may assist from an employee engagement perspective.
There are plenty of types of flexible working for example:-
- Job sharing,
- Working from home,
- Part time,
- Compressed hours (working full time but within a shorter number of days),
- Flexitime (having different start and end times but working around the same core time),
- Annualised hours (certain number of hours over the year),
- Staggered hours (different start and finish times).
Although some types of flexible working are not possible in all industries, for example it would be hard to work from home in retail, hospitality or social care.